Belarus. What is happening in the forests on the border with Ukraine? Restricted or denied entry

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– This cannot be compared to what happened in February or March, when endless columns of vehicles passed us, first to Ukraine and then back – says a resident of the Belarusian city of Mosyr about the Russian army. Jelena, as she introduces herself, says that men in military uniform are rarely seen in her city today.

The inhabitants of southern Belarus, however, have noticed the units of the Russian army earlier, and not only with the start of the war against Ukraine on February 24. At the beginning of the year – before the Russian invasion – there were Russian-Belarusian maneuvers.

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The Russians behaved like “hosts”. From Ukraine they brought, among other appliances

According to Jelena, the last few weeks in Mosyr have been tense, despite the Russian army being stationed in a camp outside the city. – They were often seen in shopping malls, bars and restaurants. I do not know if there have been conflicts with the local population, at least I have not heard anything, but the Russians sometimes behaved like “hosts”, that is, very rude – says the woman of the Russian soldiers.

When Russian troops withdrew from Ukraine, they brought home appliances and other stolen goods from there. According to Jelena, the military tried to sell everything to the people of Mosyr in a spontaneously created market, even diesel, for which there was a strong demand. But the soldiers avoided talking about the “Ukrainian topic”, Yelena recalls, adding: “They said they couldn’t talk about it,” she says.

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Belarus. Silence on the railroad tracks

Currently, military equipment is no longer visible in Belarusian railway stations near the Ukrainian border. Residents of Gomel, Mosyr and other towns in the region write on social networks that nowadays we rarely see transport by armored vehicles, tanks and other heavy weapons. “Most of the time it is damaged equipment, which is exported because it apparently cannot be repaired on site,” said a resident of Gomel.

The fact that the railway network in Belarus is currently rarely used for the transport of military equipment may also be due to acts of sabotage against the infrastructure of Belarusian railways. According to reports, at least ten cases of sabotage have occurred in Belarus in Belarus since the start of the war. Some of them have been officially confirmed by the authorities and even classified as “acts of terror”.

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Entry into the forests is prohibited

While Russian soldiers are not so visible in the big cities of Belarus, Belarusian villagers on the Ukrainian border feel that there were Russian troops in their forests.

Since 18 April, access to forests in ten regions of the Gomel region and three regions of the Brest region is restricted or completely prohibited. The official reason for the ban is the high risk of fire in forests and peatlands. However, the villagers don’t want to believe it, especially since this year’s spring was cool and no forest fires have been reported.

Mikhail, who lives in Olmanach, Brest Oblast, rather believes rumors that ammunition and weapons have been left in the forests. – Now there is a lot of talk about the fact that in our forests and swamps there are still hiding places where the Russian army kept mines and explosives to declare war on Ukraine. But something must have gone wrong – says the man.

This hypothesis is also confirmed by the indications of the authorities addressed to the inhabitants of the Belarusian-Ukrainian border area. By following these instructions, cases of discovery of weapons, ammunition or explosives must be reported. People who fail to do so are subject to criminal liability. “Such notifications have not appeared in the past,” the locals say.

“Protection against possible saboteurs”

Military units can still be seen in the forests of Belarus, particularly in the regions of the Brest and Gomel oblasts on the border with Ukraine. However, these are no longer Russian soldiers, but members of the Belarusian armed forces. According to the Belarusian Ministry of Defense, the soldiers “continue to carry out tasks aimed at strengthening sections of the southern border of the country”.

According to a Belarusian major who wishes to remain anonymous, the operation is officially defined as “protection against possible saboteurs and illegal armed formations”. However, DW’s interlocutor notes at the same time that the situation on the border with Ukraine does not cause much concern at the moment.

In turn, the secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, Alexander Wolfovich, in an interview with the Belarusian state media said that “provocation against Belarus” to “drag the country into a conflict” cannot be ruled out.


Author: Ales Petrowitsch

The article comes from the site Deutsche Welle

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